In March, when Kerry Guneri opened his Pizza Boli’s franchise on 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan, he decided to plug one of his feature products. In the window on the southern side of his store, he posted a neon sign reading “Jumbo Slice” in green and red over a picture of a slice of pizza.
The move didn’t sit well with Chris Chishti, owner of the Pizza Mart shop three doors down. Chishti, who has been serving jumbo slices since 1997, had a more modest plastic “Jumbo Slice” sign of his own. His slabs of pizza began with a pie 18 inches in diameter, he says. They grew to 22 inches, then 28, and eventually a sprawling 32-inch piebecoming, along the way, a staple for hungry late-night barhoppers.
“When you have new competition, you have concerns,” says Chishti. “You have to be very careful, especially when they go putting up signs like that.”
Then, in early July, his new competitor compounded the provocation by installing a pair of additional signs reading “Original Jumbo Slice.”
Chishti immediately got on the phone with his signmaker. “I called my man and said, ‘We need one that says “Real Original Jumbo Slice,”‘” he says. The signnearly identical to the Pizza Boli’s signs, only with “Real” on topwas installed that very day.
“Everyone knows who the original is,” Chishti says. “That’s why we put ‘Real Original’ up there. They come in and try to steal our idea.”
Although Guneri can’t put a date on when his chain began selling jumbo slices, he holds that Pizza Boli’s slices are every bit as original as Pizza Mart’s. “I make the slices original,” says Guneri. “My slice is as original as the way they’ve made it in Italy for 2,000 years.”
“This guy, he’s going crazy with the signs,” Chishti says. As he speaks, a crew of workers on ladders is affixing a new, custom-made red-and-green awning to his store. “It’s like he’s trying to run everyone out of business.”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” says Guneri, whose store also sports a red-and-green awning. “The guy’s intimidated.”
The decorating war isn’t cheap. According to Guneri, a neon “Jumbo Slice” sign runs between $700 and $800. Neither establishment, however, is ready to sign a truce or a nonexpansion treaty.
“I try to keep up with him, that’s all,” says Chishti. “When he gets fancy, I’m just responding to it.”
“That’s his business; this is mine,” says Guneri. “What do I need more signs for? This place is lit up like a whorehouse as it is.” CP